It’s estimated that the first Polynesian voyagers left South-East Asia to explore the Pacific in 1500 BC. Hawaii was settled by these canoe-paddling navigators in 900 AD. And in 1975, the cultural renaissance of recovering and reviving the ancient art of wayfinding began. The voyage of the Hokule’a from Hawaii to Tahiti inspired many, and proved the skills of the ancient Polynesian maritime navigators.
Maui’s non-profit group Hui o Wa’a Kaulua (“Assembly of the Double-Hulled Canoes”), formed in 1975 with a similar motive: to construct a double hull canoe, or wa’a kaulua. The group launched the Mo’olele (“The Leaping Lizard”) later that year, and since then the 42-foot wa’a kaulua has voyaged the islands of Maui Nui and as far as the Big Island and Oahu.
But in the last 17 years, Hui o Wa’a Kaulua has set its sights on transoceanic voyaging. Now, after nearly two decades spent sitting in a hale under the benefaction of generous supporters, the time for Maui’s 62-foot, double-hulled Mo’okiha O Pi’ilani to set sail has nearly arrived.
At the June 15 Kamehameha Day Ho’olaule’a at Kamehameha Iki Park in Lahaina, Hui o Wa’a Kaulua will announce the launching date for the Mo’okiha o Pi’ilani.
“This canoe has been touched by many people in the community and it is now her turn to do what she was meant to do,” stated Hui o Wa’a Kaulua in a June 12 news release. “Students on board the deep-sea voyaging canoe will have the chance to learn leadership values and cultural knowledge in a unique environment that is not bound by walls… Through the importance of sustainability and respect for the environment stressed on the wa’a, Lahaina will only benefit from the people the canoe touches and her presence is a symbol that honors the rich maritime history of these islands. Mo’okiha is for our community and youth.”
The Ho’olaulea will go on from 9-5pm and will feature canoe exhibits, canoe rides, makahiki games, awa ceremonies, youth activities, local entertainment, food booths and the opening of the Polynesian Voyaging Theater. Pacific’O restaurant will be a food vendor at the event and all proceeds from their donation will go towards the completion of Mo’okiha o Pi’ilani.
Indeed, the non-profit is still calling for supporters to get the launch off the sand, requesting “generous supporters who understand the need for cultural awareness and education, and volunteers are also needed for Crew, daily work on the canoe, rigging, and Kupuna that are interested in giving daily tours.”
Hui o Wa’a Kaulua’s mission is “to conduct model educational programs to excite and challenge the youth and their communities to learn, respect, and care for their natural and social environment.”
Photo courtesy of Hui o Wa’a Kaulua and Cadencia Photography